It is hard to let go

Lucifer Sam was the most fair minded dog I’ve known and loved. At dog play groups, if one dog became too snarly with another dog, Lucifer Sam would bark at them as if to be telling them they needed to stop. I think he counted treats with his other companion dogs, so if I gave a certain number of treats to another dog he seemed to make sure I gave him the same amount. When we would be together watching movies or other activities Lucifer Sam, made sure he spent time sitting next to both Ann and I so that one of us wouldn’t go the whole time without a Pug dog to snuggle with. Lucifer Sam had a natural sense of fairness more than most dogs and way, way more than most people.

He was named after a cat from a Pink Floyd song, and his birthday was one day before the birthday date of Sid Barret. Lucifer Sam died a few days after the date that Sid Barret passed away, and there appears to be some poetry in his life and time with us.

He was a dog who cared and loved Ann and I as well as all his other dog and cat companions, and of course we were deeply saddened when we discovered he had cancer.

When Ann first found the swollen gland on his neck, we were hoping it was only an infection. The examinations and tests showed that there was cancer, and we wanted him to have surgery as soon as possible. Lucifer Sam had had cancer twice before, on a forearm and hind leg, and surgery had saved his life in those times. We soon realized that this time cancer would take his life. The cancer started in a place behind a tooth where we could not easily notice a lump. We are at least fortunate that the first two times we could find the cancer soon enough, but this time the tumor could not be found until it was too late.

After Lucifer Sam’s surgery we soon learned that the cancer was advanced and continuing to grow fast. The initial surgery was good to remove remove the early tumors and some necrotic tissue. The hospital staff cared for him well and explained to us all of the benefits and risks for treating his cancer with radiation and vaccines. We
could have done treatments that would have had us going in for medical procedures and appointments nearly every week to treat his condition, and he would have been a great patient. He was the kind of dog who was gentle and cooperative with medical care. Surely, if Lucifer Sam’s cancer had been discovered sooner and the tumors were growing more slowly, then we would have wanted all available treatments.

With cancer it feels like we are living in some sort of medical dark age with limited options being only treatments of symptoms not cures. Treatments are sort of like taking vitamins, because they may improve the quality of life or they can cause more harm. The best hope for using treatments is to have more time, to spend with our beloved dog. We would have wanted more time but the choice is not only about the length of time but also how that time is spent.

We decided that the best remaining time we could spend with Lucifer Sam was not involving lost days to anesthesia and recovering from radiation burns. Instead we would accept the short time we had, and do bicycle rides, car rides, nature trails, dog parks, or just hang out in the back yard. Giving him the best and most time to enjoy the things he liked is the way we wanted to spend our time with him, and we did something with him every day.

Bicycling is something new for our dogs this year as Ann got me a carrier for dogs to pull behind my bicycle for my last birthday. Jasper, our 3 year old Boston Terrier, doesn’t seem to understand going for a bicycle ride, and might prefer to go for walks. Lucifer Sam was over 10, and he took to lying down and watching the world go by behind a bicycle on the first ride.

One day a turtle was crossing our bicycle path and I stopped to try and get Lucifer Sam to look at it, but he kept looking at me as if to ask why we stopped. I think dogs like to be outdoors so much because they can pick up on lots of smells. We nicknamed these bicycle or car rides, “smell tours.”

Lucifer Sam stayed in fair health in spite of the growing tumors and enjoyed his time with us and the other pets longer than we expected. He made time with us all the way through the end of June, but in July he began to seem a little less happy. I continued to think he was doing well, but this was only my optimism. Then he became very ill and stopped having interest in food. I could sometimes get him to eat some bacon bits in diced chicken and warm broth, but sometimes he would even run away from food.

When this downturn began, I thought to myself:  “I know I’m going to miss our Pug too soon, and every day I keep hoping he might feel a little better so we can have more time. I’m beginning to worry that my expectations are too selfish and that I need to let him go. I know I need to let him go. I’ve known that we have to let him go for several months now, but it’s alway harder than I ever imagine it to be to let go of any beloved dog.” Our dog was beginning to leave us.